SEC Week Nine: Rivalry, Road Trips and the Rest
Once again a team from the SEC enters a weekend of college football ranked No. 1 in the BCS. Auburn hopes to avoid the curse that fell on Ohio State and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks as both teams fell in road games after reaching the lofty perch. Meanwhile in the SEC East, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida fight for a chance at representing the division in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Last week: 4-2 Overall: 44-18
(Home teams listed first.)
Article first published as SEC Week Nine: Rivalry, Road Trips, and the Rest on Blogcritics.
Ole Miss vs. Auburn
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It is time, perhaps past time, to consider Auburn a legitimate national title contender. Led by Heisman frontrunner QB Cameron Newton, Auburn rolled up over 400 yards of rushing against LSU last week. Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli had a strong game in a loss against Arkansas. Masoli finished the game 21-for-36 for 327 yards and three scores. He also rushed for a team high 98 yards on 15 carries as well. Ole Miss will hope the curse of being No. 1 in the BCS will follow Auburn to Oxford this week but they'll need more than luck and wishes to stop Auburn's top players - Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Masoli is a challenge for the Auburn defense but no one has blocked Fairley this year so that will neutralize the Rebel Black Bears' attack. Ole Miss gives up rushing yards in bunches and too many points late in the game to think they can weather the orange and blue storm heading their way. Auburn did not get to this ranking by overlooking opponents (see the way they've smashed the tune-ups this year compared to years past when the Tigers would have cruise-controlled in those games). They won't start this week either.
Auburn 35, Ole Miss 14
Florida vs. Georgia
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This is only a rivalry because people tell us it is. Florida has owned Georgia for two decades in this one. This year the game is a tale of two teams passing each other on the mediocre highway in the SEC East this year. The Bulldogs were simply awful the first month of the season but turned a corner reeling off three straight conference wins. However, they still aren't that good. The competition has gotten much more manageable and oddly enough this week isn't that different. Florida's offense hasn't been on track all year (the anomaly against Kentucky still baffles) and the defense hasn't held up in three straight losses. Georgia can run the ball and QB Aaron Murray doesn't make a ton of mistakes. If his offensive line can hold up, the Bulldogs should be able to dictate the tempo. Florida needs an identity on offense because Georgia's defense while not great has improved in recent outings. The Mark Richt resurgence gets a real shot in the arm this week. The Urban Meyer belated retirement party seems all but inevitable.
Georgia 24, Florida 20
South Carolina vs. Tennessee
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South Carolina used a strong rushing game to slip by a pesky Vanderbilt team last week. The Gamecocks will try for the same against Tennessee, a team that took it on the chin from Alabama marking the fourth double-digit loss of the year and second straight week of surrendering 41 points. South Carolina needs this one to take one step closer to securing the SEC East and they shouldn't have any trouble doing it. Tennessee's defense is incredibly porous and the offense is at best inconsistent. Both teams start fast so there might be fireworks early but expect the Vols to fade while the Gamecocks surge.
South Carolina 32, Tennessee 13
Mississippi State vs. Kentucky
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Mississippi State's second year under Dan Mullen is a real nice surprise because on paper the Bulldogs don't appear to have the elite talent to post a 6-2 record including wins over Florida and Georgia (the two losses were to LSU and Auburn). Kentucky's story so far involves spotting teams huge leads in the first half and then storming back in the second half to try and win it. It's only worked once - South Carolina - and don't expect it to work this week either. The Bulldogs defense is up for the challenge against Kentucky's offense. MSU got their hangover scare with UAB last week; they won't let it happen again. Much like the game against Florida, ball-control will be the Bulldogs game.
Mississippi State 17, Kentucky 7
Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt
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Vanderbilt has been pesky all year and that won't stop this week. Too bad for them the next opponent is Arkansas, a team that found it's run game to compliment the potent passing attack. This one is really simple-Arkansas scores a lot of points and Vanderbilt allows teams to score a lot of points. That's not a recipe for success for the smart kids from Nashville.
Arkansas 48, Vanderbilt 14